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Social Business

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Jeff Dachis announced his new venture on Monday: building and consulting on social software for corporations. I worked with Jeff from the mid-90s to 2001 or so when my firm backed Razorfish as it grew from ten people in a single office to 2,000+ in multiple offices around the world. When Austin Ventures asked me about Jeff as part of their due diligence, I was happy to give an enthusiastic thumbs up.

And I like the concept. Certainly more than Fred Wilson. Fred says “when you think of terms like ‘open APIs’, ‘customizable’, and ‘upload data/media’, the enterprise with its need for security and control doesn’t really come to mind.” And later, “most enterprises don’t want their employees to be active members of a community that it can’t control, monitor, and moderate.”

Fred is wrong. In the ‘social’ parts of a business, the parts where people interact with other people to get things done, it’s not about control, it’s about accountability. And that’s an entirely different, but tractable, problem.

A good friend of mine spent the last year and a half using open-source collaboration and social networking tools to build bridges among her organization’s dozens of international offices. Her effort has already allowed people to share knowledge (about best practices and successful local products that might work elsewhere), create new connections between employees and help maintain these new connections more easily. She had to find, evaluate, interconnect and teach a bunch of tools. Integrated enterprise social software would have been a huge head start.

This is a big opportunity. There are some intrinsic problems with knowledge sharing, etc., that I’ve blogged about, and these need to be addressed. But good entrepreneurs help create markets, and Jeff’s a great entrepreneur.